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Gripper is a Mixed Breed. She appears to be part Miniature Pinscher but the other breed(s) are a guess. Maybe some Jack Russell Terrier, Rat Terrier, or Chihuahua are in there somewhere. Whatever she is, her personality is very Terrier-like. She is about 15 years old, weighs about 13 pounds, and stands 13 inches at the withers. I adopted her when she was about one year old. Grip is an energetic and amusing little girl. She loves to play and is incredibly intelligent.
Gripper was originally found wandering in Williamsburg, an industrial area of Brooklyn. She was eventually caught and taken to the BARC shelter. Luckily for her, it was a no-kill shelter. Her temperament would not have passed muster in most places. Grip ran around free in BARC's store for several months. All the toys were hers! She was nicknamed "Giovanna" but I changed that to something more appropriate when I adopted her. When she's got a grip on a toy, she doesn't let go. That tenacity is what "sold" her to me.
I initially discovered her when I stumbled upon her photo and description when checking out the Petfinder website. That original photo is in the row of photos below, far left. She was cute and looked like the perfect agility dog but I really wasn't looking for another dog so I let it go. But I kept thinking about her and after a couple weeks, I e-mailed BARC hoping that she had found a home. When I found out she hadn't, I went to have a peek.
Our first meeting was not at all pleasant. She wanted nothing to do with me or anyone for that matter. She shredded my hands when I'd go near her or her toys. After an hour of bloodshed (mine) and attempts to connect with her, I gave up. I concluded she was probably unreachable by humans. Too far gone. She seemed almost autistic.
But a few weeks later, she was still there and I decided to at least give her a day in the country since she'd probably never seen a blade of grass. I took her to my agility training place in Long Island and decided to try playing with her a bit there. She immediately took to the clicker and I was very impressed by her eagerness and trainability.
I decided to take on the challenge. A little voice in my head kept saying, "if you're really a dog trainer, then this one's for you." After all, who else would take her? This was a dog that you could not touch. I knew she was right for agility with her long legs and stride, incredibly flexible body, high drive, speed, etc. but turning her into a companion was the tough part.
|Some very early photos|
She learned the agility obstacles in an amazingly short time. It took her far longer to learn her name and to enjoy being petted. Agility gave her a reason to interact with humans - for the treats at least! After training for only four months for agility, I felt I had run out of things to teach her. Normally, a dog should be trained for at least a year before entering competition. But Grip had completely reliable obstacle performance and was fast as lightning. After a few matches (simulated trials) at unfamiliar locations, I hesitantly signed her up for a few trials. She did great and racked up titles in a few months that take most dogs several years to attain. I competed with her for eight years and she earned multiple championship titles in both USDAA and NADAC (AKC does not allow mixed breeds to play). Gripper also loved to run courses with other people. She seemed to like the novelty of it. I loaned her out to kids at trials and she earned a Junior Handler title. Here's a sample video of Grip and I running a Snooker course in 2006.
In 2007, I decided to retire her from competition. She definitely could have continued to be successful for at least a few more years. But with no new dog on the horizon to compete with (Fix and Sputnik were clearly not that into the sport) and nothing left to accomplish with Grip, I decided to focus on other things. So began the obsession with all things roadside (the main part of this website). Grip still gets plenty of exercise each morning in the park. Since we're not competing anymore, we take more roadtrips which is more fun for all of us.
Grip is an amazing, entertaining, and unforgettable character. In 2002, I lost her for three days in Maryland. She disappeared at dusk without a collar - most likely to chase a rabbit. A friend and I put up posters all over town and, miraculously, she was found. I have been especially grateful for every day that I have her since then.
Grip still hates having her feet or mouth touched but she tolerates it much more than when she was younger. Gripper knows dozens of tricks and loves learning new things. She lost sight in one eye in 2010 and went completely blind in 2011. She is still full of energy and personality. She can still do most of her tricks.
Grip has been a challenging dog but we have developed a very deep relationship. With her blindness, she has developed even more trust in me. I love all my dogs but she is admittedly my favorite.
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